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Subject: What did you read in November (2012)? rss

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Morgan Dontanville
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Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card

I have to say that this book isn't at all what I was expecting. I think I took it for granted that this would be an action filled space opera. Instead, it is a sports book set in a laser tag boarding school, with a subplot about bloggers. If this book utilized the training montage, it would end up at about 35 or 40 pages.

I guess the writing is engaging enough to carry what little I cared about the subject matter. I'm impressed at how forward thinking Card was in regards to blogging and video games. I'm less impressed by his infatuation with naked young boys and fart jokes.

For me, the denouement was far more interesting than anything that happened through the bulk of the book. There is some pay-off from slogging through the pages and pages of details of Ender's silly video game journey, so I guess that is ok. And I liked the reveal of the second invasion. But the character appearances at the end were eye-rollingly pat (both the trainer and his partners), and the climactic battles couldn't be any less climactic. Worse, there is no payoff reading all of Ender's dream sequences, blarg.

The characters felt pretty weak, bad kids are bad, good kids are good, smart kids are smart, the others are just doing their job. Still, while what happens isn't exciting in any way, there were a couple of fun moments, the way that you might be mildly entertained by hearing someone recount a particularly exciting bit from a sportball game. But then, it all unravels when you try wrapping my head around how these are supposed to be 6-11 year-olds. I know that they are all supposed to be advanced, but really they don't resemble little kids in any way. I guess, if this was presented as a YA novel, I'd be a bit more accepting, but it isn't, so I'm not. Meh.



Ship's Cat
by Alan Aldridge, Richard Adams

The art in this is seriously stunning. The poem throughout is fun, but perhaps a little difficult for little kids, still the whole work is magical, and as a piece it is transcendent of its form. If I'd had this as a child I would have spent hours poring through this.





The Outfit
by Richard Stark

This is much more of an examination of the procedure of various crimes rather than the tightly plotted stories of the first two books. It feels like this was originally going to be the last "book" in The Hunter, but then got cut, and later expanded on. Still, it is a great read, with punchy dialog and great insight into the minds of criminals. It is a great collection of weird little vignettes.




Portnoy’s Complaint
by Philip Roth

This is a relentless barrage of neurotic banter. While occasionally funny, and frequently entertaining, it wore me out. Were it not for the consistent skill of Roth as a writer, I probably couldn't have endured the wave after wave of guilt and self-loathing. The book is tightly stylized with the focus on the general concept of the character, poking in and out of his history through a vomitous stream of consciousness. Portnoy's Complaint is clearly inspired by Mrs. Dalloway. Just take away the obsession with proper flower arrangements and other various party planning and substitute it with endless masturbation then shift the pace to 72 RPMs. The whole thing feels like sitting on a playground merry-go-round that is going a bit too fast -- it is fun for thrills, but after a while you just want to get off and take a break. Yet, I found myself back on it again, even when I should know better.





The Stars My Destination
by Alfred Bester

My general rule about stories that revolve around despicable characters is that they have to be intriguing and you can't be expected to care about them on a personal level. Bester is absolutely unapologetic about his beastly anti-hero and uses him entirely a vehicle to paint the world that he lives in.

The format is set up as a bit of a shaggy dog story, complete with deus ex machina up the yin yang; though surprisingly it delivers an entirely satisfying ending. Once you let go and let Bester just envelop you with his nutty ideas it is a fun little "jaunt" (ha, see what I did there).

I can't in good conscious give the book 5 stars as I had a serious issue with how misogynistic the book is. Before even discussing the tone and characterization of women the fact that the main character is also an off screen rapist who revisits his victims is seriously appalling, and requires that I just put it out of my mind to not let it spoil my enjoyment of the rest of the story. That aside, I know Bester intentionally addresses how the state of women changes for the worse in his future, and I know that he is trying to demonstrate it rather than relying on exposition, but I just couldn't get over how the intentionally strong women continually buckle in the face of a good swoon, embracing their inner "ice queen", take any chance to have an emotional breakdown, or any number of cliched tropes of what women are "supposed to be like." Worse, the women all fall instantly in love with their assigned men and everything surrounding it feels contrived and shallow.

But the rest of the book is so fast, furious, and fun, the writing so tight, and the concepts so grand, that I feel that I just have to swallow it as a bitter pill, and enjoy the rest.





Concrete Volume 1: Depths
by Paul Chadwick

Ok, what am I missing? I guess the book has a certain zen-like embrace of the mundane. In concept this turns the whole the super hero stereotype on its head, but really for the most part there isn't much excitement here. I understand how the world needed an anti-Grendel at the time, but after the 25+ years since this has been released the market has been flooded with indie navel gazing. I'm not sure that this has that much going for it to rise above the rest other than getting there first. Frequently the art is lovely, and the stories do have a certain charm, but I guess I have to say that I'm just not the audience for these.




The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite (The Umbrella Academy #1)
by Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá

It's like if Wes Anderson read a ton of Hellboy and figured that he could do something like that. If ever you wanted a comic book revolving around the lives of a dysfunctional superhero family this one is it. I appreciate how Gerard Way doesn't beat around the bush. There is a constant drive to the book that demands its rampant pace, so that where there is story and subtext, you are expected to pick it all up along the way. The author was entirely successful at maintaining the breakneck pace while still revealing the mystery of the family, and showing us just enough back-story to feel what is happening in the moment.

Success!




Dead Men's Boots
by Mike Carey

I'm still reading this, but I've loved the series so far.
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CHAPEL
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I know this might be cliche', but it's getting me back into the Middle Earth mood before The Hobbit hits the big screen. Plus Jackson likes to put "nods" into the movie from the Silmarillion.


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Rich Shipley
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Just finished reading this again:



Reading through the series (starting with the short story The Mechants of Venus). Pohl is skilled at creating stories of distopias that are not just polemics. In this case, humanity discovers remnants of an ancient starfaring civlization and goes about exploiting things in a rather libertarian manner.
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Michael Edwards
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I finished up a trilogy I was reading.


Pretty good, it kept me engaged throughout.
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Chony McChuukface
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I picked up a couple of books at a thrift store. They were 2 for $1.00

I have a 35 minute bus ride to and from work so I try to read things that are not too complicated plot-wise:

Hot Springs by Stephen Hunter



I enjoyed Master Sniper by this author and had seen the movie Shooter so I figured I would try out a couple of the "Swagger" novels.
This one was good. It set up the story of Earl Swagger and how he started his law enforcement career. Not a literary classic by any means, but I got my 50 cents out of it.



Black Light
by Stephen Hunter



This was the story of Earl Swagger's death and his son Bob Lee's search for the killer. Set in the 50's and the 90's it was good. Well worth my 50 cents.

Night of Knives by Ian Esslemont



In the evening when I had more time to read I chose this one. I really enjoyed the Malazan books by Erickson so I had high hopes for this. It was good. I have since started "The Return of the Crimson Guard" and will add that to the December list.
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Chony McChuukface
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Chanfan wrote:
I finished up a trilogy I was reading.


Pretty good, it kept me engaged throughout.


I keep hearing good things about Robin Hobb so I need to pick up the first in the series and check it out.
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Phil Sauer
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I'm picking up The Ship's Cat based on your description. Thanks for pointing this out, Morgan.
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David K.
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Book 3 in the series. An enjoyable story. Light fantasy with a side trip to Las Vegas!



Started book 4, last week.
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An open-eyed man falling into the well
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This is a few months back for me:

Catching Fire and Mockingjay (books 2 and 3 of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins - More or less a continuation of the first book. More like thriller novels than sci-fi or fantasy. They have their moments but overall I wasn't impressed.

Holes by Louis Sachar - An excellent YA novel, comparable in tone and at times in humor to Lemony Snicket. Recommended.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson - Sci-fi novel set in an Earth-like world where (most of the time) "scientists" live cloistered from the rest of the world. A mix of philosophy with much attention to scientific detail (complete with long descriptions) but it maintains an interesting tone throughout. (For example, when the narrator is thinking about a problem, he's likely to be interrupted by his friends making a joke.) The best book I've read in a while. Highly recommended.
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Recipes for Disaster - Tess Rafferty

A food memoir by one of the former writers (and the Dancing Maxi-Pad*) on The Soup. It's a quick, entertaining, and snarky read about her development as a writer and the dinner parties that she and her boyfriend (now husband) have thrown over the years, including the triumphs and tragedies included with them. As an added bonus, most chapters conclude with a tip and recipe. I enjoyed it, and I'll probably try out some of the recipes in it.

*


-----

Anonymouse512 wrote:
Catching Fire and Mockingjay (books 2 and 3 of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins - More or less a continuation of the first book. More like thriller novels than sci-fi or fantasy. They have their moments but overall I wasn't impressed.


I wasn't a fan of the resolution of Mockingjay. I felt like the climax of the trilogy would end in more of a triumph, but instead it felt like a half-hearted wrap-up.
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There is no Dana, only Zuul
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I read multiple books at once, so I finished a couple in November, but am finishing up a couple of others in short order.

Finished:

A little book of mormon (and not so mormon) stories. Kind of interesting. I gave it a solid "eh." I don't know - if it was supposed to be a shocking insight into being mormon, it wasn't. I love human stories and the story each person uniquely has (most of the time). This one was interesting as a concept, but just kind of poorly delivered.

The House at Tyneford. Eh. Okay. Kind of cliche in a modern sort of Jane Austen way. Nothing fantastic, but kind of interesting take on that kind of story.

I finished Guilty Pleasures (lol) December 1.

Almost finished:

Happy Accidents. Will finish today. Pretty entertaining. I don't understand people who review it poorly for being so self-centered. True story: it's her memoir...wtf do people think it's supposed to be about?!

The No Asshole Rule. Again, and again - I think management should all have to read it, and read it often.

Tales from the Pantry Done in the next couple of days. Every parent, uncle, aunt, relative around kids would get a good laugh, and it was recently free for kindle. There's boobs, and awkward situations and poop, and pretty much just awesome entertainment.


I'm supposed to get on with reading The Thirteenth Tale, the Life of Pi, and The Dovekeepers next-ish since they're book club things I'm behind on. Oops.

I hope they read a little better than Discovery of Witches. I will finish that at some point, but ugh - this first 100 pages is like plucking nosehairs with tweezers...slowly.
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There is no Dana, only Zuul
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skelebone wrote:
I wasn't a fan of the resolution of Mockingjay. I felt like the climax of the trilogy would end in more of a triumph, but instead it felt like a half-hearted wrap-up.


I also thought it felt a little half-hearted, but I also liked that it wasn't such a triumph. It felt a little more...I don't know? maybe genuine?...because it wasn't a triumph. In some ways I thought it reflected a little more maturity in terms of choice, but I don't think it was the most mature, or committed, ending. It didn't ruin the series for me, but made me wish it had lived up to a little more of what I think it could have been.
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Rob
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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe .



I read this because my son was reading it for his English. Found it quite fascinating. A true tragedy in the literary sense as it follows the life of Okwonkwo in a Nigerian tribe, around the turn of the 20th century, and its inevitable clash with Western colonial expansion.
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Joe Salamone
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Completed:

DAGGER IN THE SKY:





TREASURE ISLAND from the Easton Press 100 Greatest Books Ever Written collection:





In progress:

MERCHANTS OF DISASTER:





THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Easton Press):





THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW AND OTHER STORIES (Easton Press):





BILLY THE KID: THE ENDLESS RIDE (Easton Press):





LES MISERABLES (Easton Press):














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ChonChuuk wrote:
Chanfan wrote:
I finished up a trilogy I was reading.


Pretty good, it kept me engaged throughout.


I keep hearing good things about Robin Hobb so I need to pick up the first in the series and check it out.

Start WAY back then. Assassin's Apprentice from 1995 to be exact.
There's a character in that book that makes appearances in the Liveship Traders and the Tawny Man series.

She's probably my favorite Fantasy writer.
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Morgan Dontanville
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Joe, what did you think of these?
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xilan wrote:
I'm supposed to get on with reading The Thirteenth Tale, the Life of Pi, and The Dovekeepers next-ish since they're book club things I'm behind on. Oops.

I hope they read a little better than Discovery of Witches. I will finish that at some point, but ugh - this first 100 pages is like plucking nosehairs with tweezers...slowly.

Life of Pi should fly along, if you get into the story. If it doesn't grab you right away, though, you may have a problem.
It certainly grabbed me. I finished it in 4 "days", and I'm usually a slow reader (I normally read for a half hour to one hour before bed, each night. This one I could hardly put down).
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The Anubis Gates - Tim Powers. Until this year I didn't know 'mystical london' was a genre unto itself...oh well, this is a great book.

Light - M. John Harrison. So very confusing at first...Who am I kidding, it stays pretty opaque all the way through. But it's imaginative, epic, and more than a little bleak and sad.

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson. About 100 pages left. The 'metaverse' descriptions are groan worthy, very much 'hollywood hacker eyecandy' type stuff there...but the rest of the story rolls right along like Stephenson's usually do.
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Gecko23 wrote:


Light - M. John Harrison. So very confusing at first...Who am I kidding, it stays pretty opaque all the way through. But it's imaginative, epic, and more than a little bleak and sad.


Crazy, in a Michael Moorcock kind of way. But I liked it.
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MWChapel wrote:
Gecko23 wrote:


Light - M. John Harrison. So very confusing at first...Who am I kidding, it stays pretty opaque all the way through. But it's imaginative, epic, and more than a little bleak and sad.


Crazy, in a Michael Moorcock kind of way. But I liked it.


He did the same thing to science fiction that he did to fantasy with Viriconium.
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Morgan Dontanville
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I'm a big fan of children's adventure books, but Treasure Island felt pretty flat to me. I think the problem is that Long John Silver is just such a putz. The real villain of the book is Israel Hands, I kept wishing that he'd take command, stab Silver in the back, and throw him overboard.
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Marc P
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I picked up The Wind Through the Keyhole--A Dark Tower novel by Stephen King.

I had sworn off King after finishing the Dark Tower series, as I was sick of his voice. But I picked this out of the horrid offerings at the airport on the way to Dallas and read most of it on the way back. I'm a big fan of the stories within the Dark Tower narrative, like Susan Delgado's story in Wizard and Glass and Father Callahan's story in Wolves of the Calla. I think I actually prefer these stories to the actual adventures of the ka-tet, since those characters seldom feel as authentic as the mid-world characters (especially Susanna/Odetta--bleh). So this book was kind of a gimme, since it contained two new stories that didn't involve Eddie, Susanna, or Jake. Roland relates a story from his youth, and young Roland in that story tells a bedtime story related to the overarching Dark Tower mythos. Exactly the kind of popcorn I needed.

While the convention flu was burning its way through me, I started playing Oblivion again with a new character, and that damn game got its hooks in me again, so there wasn't any reading for the rest of the month!

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Morgan Dontanville
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MWChapel wrote:
I know this might be cliche', but it's getting me back into the Middle Earth mood before The Hobbit hits the big screen. Plus Jackson likes to put "nods" into the movie from the Silmarillion.


I haven't read this since I was a kid. I remember accidentally dropping it in my bath and being so upset. After it dried, it had swollen up and was gigantic. Being the little shit that I was, I was stoked because now it looked like I was reading a big thick book like my dad's Michners, and that people would think I was smart. HA!

After I finished it, I considered getting my next book wet so that it would look thick as well. What a maroon!

I had this copy, which means I was 12, yeesh:



So how did it hold up for you?
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There was one scene I had to go back and reread because I thought I had missed something, but nope, there's definitely a lack of description. I can't tell if it's a bad edit, a misprint, a bit of foreshadowing, an exceptional bit of thickness on my part, or Sir Terry's Alzheimer's beginning to show.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
When the dwarves invade Vimes' house, one comes flying out of Young Sam's room and we are not given any insight as to what tossed him out as far as I can tell.
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I got it at a used bookstore, and doing a search just now to add an image here, I see that there are two more books.
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